31 May 2004

Kaplan's Armenia

Armenia is the quintessential Near Eastern nation: conquered, territorially mutilated, yet existing in one form or another in the Near Eastern heartland for 2,600 years, mentioned in ancient Persian inscriptions and in the accounts of Herodotus and Strabo. Armenians trace their roots to Hayk, son of Torgom, the great-grandson of Japheth, a son of Noah himself. While their rivals the Medes and Hittites disappeared, the Armenians remained intact as an Indo-European people with their own language, akin to Persian. In the first century B.C., under Tigran the Great, Hayastan (what Armenians call Armenia) stretched from the Caspian Sea in the east to central Turkey in the west, incorporating much of the Caucasus, part of Iran, and all of Syria. In A.D. 301, Armenians became the first people to embrace Christianity as a state religion; today, Orthodox Armenia represents the southeastern edge of Christendom in Eurasia. In 405, the scholar Mesrop Mashtots invented the Armenian alphabet, still in use today....

Armenia soon became engulfed by the Roman and Byzantine empires. But when the Arab caliphate fell into decline in the ninth and tenth centuries, Armenia rose again as a great independent kingdom under the Bagratid dynasty, with its capital at Ani, in present-day Turkey. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turk chieftain Alp Arslan overran Ani, Kars, and the other Armenian fortresses, destroying over ten thousand illuminated manuscripts, copied and painted at Armenian monasteries. Independent Armenia survived in the form of baronies but eventually fell under the rule of Turks, Persians, and, later, the Russian czars and commissars. It is the Russian part which forms today's independent state.

Now squeezed between Turkey to the west, Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and Georgia to the north--with its lost, far-flung territories lying in all directions--this newly independent former Soviet republic straddles the Caucasus and the Near Eastern desert to the south. Like Israel, Armenia is a small country--its population is only 3.5 million--surrounded on three sides by historical enemies (the Anatolian Turks, the Azeri Turks, and the Georgians), but it boasts a dynamic merchant tradition and a wealthy diaspora. Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, Jerusalem, Teheran, and Istanbul all have influential Armenian communities. Jews and Armenians also share the legacy of genocide. The Nazis' World War II slaughter of the Jews was inspired partly by that of the Armenians in World War I. "Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?" Hitler remarked in 1939.

... there was a crucial difference between the revolt of the Greeks and the Slavs against the Turks in the Balkans and the Armenian revolt against the Turks in eastern Anatolia. The Balkans lay within the Ottoman empire but outside Turkey itself, so only imperial control was at issue; while in eastern Anatolia, Turkish and Armenian communities fought over the same soil. That is partly why--in the shadow of Mount Ararat--traditional ethnic killing first acquired a comprehensive and bureaucratic dimension.

... I flew to Armenia. My fellow passengers cried and cheered as the plane touched down before dawn in Yerevan. They were Armenians from the diaspora visiting their ethnic homeland, many for the first time. In few countries--Israel being one--have I seen such emotion when a plane lands.

At the airport, there were no bothersome forms to fill out or bribes to pay. Travelers had told me that efficiency and honesty also prevailed at Armenia's land frontier with Georgia. The cabdriver who took me to Yerevan was well groomed, and charged a reasonable price. The roads throughout much of Armenia, as I would see, were better than in Georgia or Azerbaijan. Nor would I encounter any slovenly militiamen demanding bribes. In these and other ways, Armenia was more of a functioning country than others in the Caucasus. In 1998, it carried out a smooth democratic succession when President Levon Ter-Petrosian was replaced by Robert Kocharian.

But behind the scenes, the election had been less than democratic. Real power rested with the prime minister, Vazgen Sarkisian, who controlled the military and security forces.... Armenia was very much a quasi-military security state with a wafer-thin democratic facade: a multiparty system that masked a one-party dictatorship in which the opposition was intimidated and bribed.

Still, by the standards of the region, Armenia's political system wasn't bad.... Armenia is the only state in the Caucasus--and one of the few I had encountered anywhere in my travels--whose cohesiveness I thought could be taken for granted. "We are united," a local friend told me upon my arrival. "We are ruled by one mafia, not several competing ones."

But my friend and I were insufficiently skeptical....
SOURCE: Robert D. Kaplan, Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus (Vintage, 2000), pp. 312-315

Border Clans vs. Alphabet Nation

Azerbaijan had always been a marchland, conquered by Alexander the Great and fought over by Turkey and Persia for centuries. As with Georgia, Russia entered the fray here relatively late, occupying the area briefly in the 1720s and 1730s and then returning in the nineteenth century. The local Azeris, who knew little political unity until the twentieth century, speak a Turkic language much like modem Turkish, but they are Shi'ite, like most Iranians. Most Azeris live not in Azerbaijan but to the south, in northwestern Iran. Until the early twentieth century, the Azeris were considered "Tartars" by their neighbors, and responded to questions about themselves by mentioning their family, their clan, and their religion--but rarely their national group. Georgia has a 2,500-year-old alphabet all its own. Azerbaijan, by contrast, changed its alphabet three times over the course of the twentieth century: from Arabic to Latin in the 1920s; from Latin to Cyrillic in the 1930s; and back to Latin in the 1990s.

The inability of the Azeris to congeal into a defined nation may be why the Armenians could destroy them in the war over Karabakh. The Armenians, with their own language and 1,500-year-old alphabet--and with the memory of brilliant ancient and medieval kingdoms and the Turkish genocide always before them--had a fine sense of who they were. The Armenians, everyone in the Caucasus knew, were never going to give up Karabakh in negotiations. No one gives up what has been captured in battle when the area is occupied overwhelmingly by one's own ethnic group and the rest of the population has been violently expelled, with barely a murmur from the Great Powers or the global media.
SOURCE: Robert D. Kaplan, Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus (Vintage, 2000), p. 260

From Trebizond to Trabzon

Robert D. Kaplan's Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus (Vintage, 2000) is full of wonderful vignettes of places that were once out-of-the-way, and are now taking on new significance. Here's a glance at a former outpost of Byzantium on the Black Sea.
The bus pulled into Trabzon during a golden sunset: exactly what this city had constituted in world history.

Trabzon is the Turkish-language corruption of the Greek Trebizona, which comes from the Greek word for "table"--trapeza--a reference to the flat promontory on which the city sits. In 1204, Alexius and David Comnenus, scions of the Byzantine Greek royal family, escaped the Crusader conquest and looting of Constantinople and, with the help of an army provided by the Georgian queen Tamara, created a sovereign outpost of Byzantium here in eastern Anatolia. The new city-state of Trebizond got a boost in the mid-thirteenth century when the Mongol invasion of the Near East forced a diversion of trade routes north from Persia to Anatolia. Just as Dubrovnik's noble families were to play Ottomans off against Habsburgs to preserve the independence of their Adriatic city-state, the nobles and diplomats of Trebizond played Turkomans off against Mongols to survive, keeping this city and its sylvan environs as a cosmopolitan outpost amid the monochrome Turkic nomadism--for the goods that amassed at the docks here were transported to Europe by Genoese boats, bringing Latin civilization to this eastern port. And because the Ottoman Turks under Mehmet the Conqueror did not subjugate Trebizond until 1461, eight years after Constantinople had fallen, history has conferred upon this place the aura of a last bastion of Greek Byzantium. In fact, a substantial Greek and Armenian population survived here through the centuries of Ottoman rule, until Atatürk's revolution took root; so here, too, modernity meant ethnic cleansing, though of a relatively benign and gradual kind.

My first night in Trabzon I was awakened by the blast of the Moslem call to prayer--louder, I recalled, than a few years earlier, when I had last visited. In the morning I noticed the ubiquity of head scarves. Trabzon had become a bastion of Fazilet, the Islamic Virtue party, whose vitality here was a backlash against the "Natashas"--Russian and Ukrainian prostitutes who had arrived in the 1990s from the nearby former Soviet states, threatening the stability of local family life. Reportedly, it was Turkish housewives--angered by what their husbands were doing at night--who brought Fazilet victory at the polls.

Trabzon represented historical discontinuity. The various artistic monuments of the Byzantine past notwithstanding, what I saw was a drab and dynamic, utilitarian parade of bustling kebab stands, cheap cafeteria-style restaurants, and shops selling crockery, auto parts, vacuum cleaners, kitchen and bathroom tiles, and so on, lining narrow, serpentine streets noisy and polluted with trucks and automobiles. The industrial uniformity wiped out any specific cultural trait or connection to the past....

The next day I found what remained of the Armenian monastery of Kaymakli, up a nearly impassable dirt road a few miles from the city center, amid a squatters' slum loud with children and roosters. A small boy led me into a destroyed building with a makeshift tin roof. The dirt floor, foul with excrement, was cluttered with hay, firewood, scraps of corrugated iron, and a set of barbells, which the boy proudly lifted to his waist. I looked at the stone walls, decorated with a turquoise-and-rosy-pink pageantry of Hell and the Apocalypse amid saints' portraits, all faded, defaced, and framed by fabulous filigree work, recalling the beauty of this fifteenth-century Armenian church. As the unknowing boy jumped up and down on the corrugated-iron pile, each rumble of the iron reminded me of another human displacement. I thought of the brutal ethnic expulsions that have pockmarked the history of the Near East, of which that of Kosovar Albanians taking place that same spring was merely the latest. The smell of earth, the reek of feces, and the artistic fragments of a past Armenian civilization conjured up for me yet another great crime. A monoethnic Turkish nation blanketing Anatolia with its cartographic imprint had not occurred naturally or peacefully, and was not therefore necessarily permanent.

For geography holds the key not only to the past but the future, too. The Black Sea, with its diverse civilizations, may transform this part of Turkey now that the Soviet Union and its formerly impenetrable borders are gone. The Natashas were only a part of what was happening here. Along Trabzon's harbor, there was now an endless market for goods from the former Soviet Union: fabrics, silverware, old war medals, cheap jewelry, tea services, and just about everything else, from socks to cell phones, was on sale. This was a working-class bazaar, like the Chinese market I had seen in Budapest. Trabzon was becoming more of a multiethnic Black Sea capital and less of a purely Turkish one. The kingdom of Trebizond could be reborn, I thought, in dreary, working-class hues.

My last day in eastern Turkey was like my last day in eastern Hungary [on the way to Romania]. In both places I was conscious of being near a great fault line, beyond which lay a starkly different world. Few people in eastern Turkey had any idea what was happening next door in Georgia. The large tourist office beside my hotel in Trabzon had no information about Batumi, the Georgian city on the other side of the border--not the names of hotels, the prices, not even the name of the Georgian currency. Batumi and Gürcistan (the Turkish name for Georgia) were terra incognita, and this heightened my sense of adventure.
The New America Foundation, where Kaplan is a senior fellow, has posted on its site a prescient review of this prescient book by Richard Bernstein in The New York Times on 15 December 2000.

28 May 2004

Samoan Civil Wars during the 1800s

When Andy of SiberianLight linked to my earlier post on the battle of Khalkhin-Gol/Nomonhan between Japan and Russia in 1938, he headlined it Wars nobody has ever heard of, Part 1043. Well, a Russian reader objected that every Russian has heard of Khalkhin-Gol, and reminded Americans that few Russians have ever heard of Iwo Jima. Fair enough, so let's get even more obscure. How about the Samoan Civil War of 1898-99, which drastically reconfigured Samoa?

The Samoan Civil War of 1898-99 is what led to its partitioning into what is now Samoa and American Samoa.
On the death of Samoa's King Malietoa Laupepa (d. 1898), his long-time rival Mataafa (d. after 1899) returned from exile aboard a German warship and was shortly elected the Samoan king as virtually a German puppet. The US and British consuls strongly opposed him, backing instead the dead king's son. Fighting erupted between Samoans; in January 1899, the capital city of Apia was thrown into chaos with foes fighting in the streets, looting, and burning buildings. At first Mataafa and his Samoan and German supporters gained the upper hand until US and British warships shelled Apia (March 15, 1899). Anglo-American troops took control of coastal roads, but were unable to defeat the enemy in the interior. All fighting ceased with the arrival of a tripartite (US-British-German) commission on May 13, 1899. Both sides agreed to give up their firearms, for which they were fairly compensated, and the monarchy was abolished. By the tripartite treaty (1899), Germany received the western Samoan islands, of which Savaii and Upolu (the site of Apia) are the most important; the United States obtained the eastern islands (American Samoa, with its capital at Pago Pago on Tutuila); and Britain withdrew from the area for recognition of rights on Tonga and the Solomons.
Before Samoa was partitioned and colonized, civil war seems to have been the normal method of chiefly succession. Malietoe Laupepa had secured the throne by civil war.
Desultory tribal warfare had long occurred on Samoa, an archipelago in the south-centr[a]l Pacific, where the United States, Germany, and Britain all signed treaties that gave them commercial and other rights (1878-79). In 1880, the three foreign powers agreed to recognize Malietoe Talavou (d. 1880) as Samoa's king, whose death later that year brought civil war between contentious groups seeking power. About eight months later, Malietoe Laupepa (d. 1898) secured the throne with the foreign powers' recognition.
Robert Louis Stevenson happened to be in Samoa during an outbreak of warfare in 1893 and filed a report for the Pall Mall Budget.
The process of gathering a royal army in Samoa is cumbrous and dilatory in the extreme. There is here none of the expedition of the fiery cross and the bale fire; but every step is diplomatic. Each village, with a great expense of eloquence, has to be wiled with promises and spurred by threats; and the greater chieftains make stipulations where they will march. Tamasese, son to the late German puppet and heir of his ambitions, demanded the vice-kingship as the price of his accession, though I am assured that he demanded it in vain. The various provinces returned various and unsatisfactory answers. Atua was off and on A'ana was on and off; Savai'i would not move; Tuamasaga was divided; Tutuila recalcitrant; and for long the king sat almost solitary under the windy palms of Mulinu'u. It seemed indeed as if the war was off, and the whole archipelago unanimous (in the native phrase) to sit still and plant taro.

But at last, in the first days of July, Atua began to come in. Boats arrived, thirty and fifty strong a drum and a very ill-played bugle giving time to the oarsmen, the whole crew uttering at intervals a savage howl; and on the decked foresheets of the boat the village champion (the taupou), frantically capering and dancing. Parties were to be seen encamped in palm groves with their rifles stacked. The shops were emptied of red handkerchiefs, the rallying sign or (as a man might say) the uniform of the Royal Army....

War, to the Samoan of mature years, is often an unpleasant necessity. To the young boy it is a heaven of immediate pleasures, as well as an opportunity of ultimate glory. Women march with the troops, even the Taupou-sa or Sacred Maid of the village, accompanies her father in the field to carry cartridges and bring him water to drink; and their bright eyes are ready to 'rain influence' and reward valour. To what grim deeds this practice may conduct I shall have to say later on. In the rally of their arms it is at least wholly pretty; and I have one pleasant picture of a war party marching out, the men armed and boastful, their heads bound with the red handkerchief, their faces blacked - and two girls marching in their midst under European parasols....

Every country has its customs, say native apologists, and one of the most decisive customs of Samoa ensures the immunity of women. They go to the front, as our women of yore went to a tournament. Bullets are blind; and they must take their risk of bullets, but of nothing else. They serve out cartridges and water; they jeer the faltering and defend the wounded. Even in this skirmish of Vaitele they distinguished themselves on either side. One dragged her skulking husband from a hole and drove him to the front. Another, seeing her lover fall, snatched up his gun, kept the headhunters at bay, and drew him unmutilated from the field. Such services they have been accustomed to pay for centuries; and often, in the course of centuries, a bullet or a spear must have despatched one of these warlike angels. Often enough too, the head-hunter springing ghoul-like on fallen bodies, must have decapitated a woman for a man. But the case arising, there was an established etiquette. So soon as the error was discovered the head was buried, and the exploit forgotten. There had never yet, in the history of Samoa, occurred an instance in which a man had taken a woman's head and kept it and laid it at his monarch's feet.

Such was the strange and horrid spectacle, which must have immediately shaken the heart of Laupepa, and has since covered the face of his party with confusion. It is not quite certain if there were three or only two; a recent attempt to reduce the number to one must be received with caution as an afterthought, the admissions in the beginning were too explicit, the panic of shame and fear had been too sweeping.
Jane Resture's Samoa summarizes the broader context of European colonization of Samoa and elsewhere in the Pacific, and Alexander Ganse's site, World History at the KMLA (Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, an elite international prep school in South Korea) offers even broader context.

27 May 2004

The New (Korean) Woman: From Many Lovers to Nun

Andrei Lankov has an article in the 7 January issue of The Korea Times on The Dawn of Modern Korea: The New Woman, in which he profiles the prominent pioneering Korean journalist and writer Kim Won-ju, better known under her Buddhist sobriquet of Kim Il-yop [Iryôp 'One Leaf'].
She was born in 1896 in what is now North Korea. In spite of her later Buddhist career, she came from a Christian family--like almost all Korean women who received a modern education in the early 1900s. Kim Il-yop studied at a local missionary school and then continued her education at Ewha College--the predecessor of the present-day Ewha Womans University, and a place where a girl could receive the best education available in Korea.

Her parents had a happy marriage, but for years they were plagued by the absence of male heirs. In old Korea this was seen as a disaster. Only when Kim was 14 year old did her mother gave birth to a son. Tragically her mother died the following day, and her infant brother soon after. The death of beloved wife and a much-expected son inflicted a heavy blow on Kim’s father, and he also died soon afterwards.

All these tragedies made Kim sceptical about Christianity. She began to wonder whether Buddhism, with its conception of life as tragedy and suffering, was not closer to the ultimate truth. However, Kim was too young and ambitious to entertain these doubts for long.

After her graduation from Ewha, Kim moved to Japan to continue her education. Her stay in Japan was marked by a stormy love affair with a young Japanese, Oda Seijo. The lovers were going to marry, but both families strongly opposed the match. Neither Koreans nor Japanese looked favorably on mixed marriages (indeed, such unions were surprisingly few). Nonetheless, Kim had a child by Oda. Her son grew up apart and had little interaction with his mother. Eventually he became a famous painter and in his old age retired to a Buddhist monastery--like his mother few decades earlier.

In March 1920, Kim (by that time married) founded the first Korean women's magazine. It had the telling title of Sinyoja--The New Woman. The year of 1920 was the year when modern Korean journalism was born. The mass uprising of 1919 made the Japanese authorities change their policy in the colony, they allowed the Koreans much more political and cultural freedom. One of the results was the boom in the number of periodicals.

The New Woman was not only the first Korean periodical for a female audience--even if this was revolutionary enough. It was also the first periodical to be edited and published almost exclusively by women. Kim was assisted by a number of early Korean feminists, collectively known as 'new women.' Her collaborators included the painter Na Hye-sok and the educator Pak In-dok. Mrs. Billings, an American missionary then residing in Seoul, handled the general management....

The New Woman gave voice to the rising group of Korean women who had a modern education and who did not want to abide by the age-old rules of life. They were rebelling against old conventions, and Kim was one of the most vocal members of this small but prominent group. She wrote a number of articles, poems, and novels in which she advocated women's freedoms such as access to education and equality before the law. However, her forte was the freedom of love. Kim treated the topic with greater radicalism than most other 'new women.' The majority understood 'free love' as the right to choose one's husband, while Kim's understanding of the concept was much closer to the ideas of the 1960s' sexual revolution.

Kim lived up to her declarations. The late 1920s were marked by a string of affairs with a number of her famous contemporaries. Among others, the list of Kim's lovers included Yi Kwang-su, the founding father of modern Korean literature.

Even her interest in Buddhism was greatly stimulated by a love affair--this time with a devoted Buddhist. In the early 1930s, Kim was ordained as a nun and spent most of her long life (she died in 1971) behind the walls of a Buddhist temple.
For more (in English) on Kim Wônju, see Yung-Hee Kim, "A Critique on Traditional Korean Family Institutions: Kim Wônju's 'Death of a Girl'," Korean Studies 23 (1999):24-42

The 'Modern' Japanese (and Korean) Taisho Woman

Arts & Letters Daily links to an article in the The Chronicle of 21 May 2004 on The 'Modern' Japanese Woman during the Taisho era (1912-26) that asks, among other things:
How could one be both Japanese and modern, if modernity is defined as Western? Were modernity and Japaneseness antithetical? Or could individuals and society synthesize some new middle ground? If so, how?
Suppose we transpose this question to Korea, a Japanese colony at that time.
How could one be both Korean and modern, if modernity is defined as Japanese? Were modernity and Koreanness antithetical? Or could individuals and society synthesize some new middle ground? If so, how?
In fact, very few did achieve any middle ground. A small number of talented upper-class female artists achieved some degree of, well, notoriety, only to endure tragic denouements. Choe Chong-Dae profiles one on the poorly edited website of The Korea Times on 16 April 2004 under the headline A Pioneering Woman - Yun Sim-dok.
In the course of the recent history of Korea, many prominent pioneering women duly played significant roles in raising the national consciousness and in advocating women's rights and freedoms. Women such as Na Hye-sok, a social pioneer, painter and writer (1896-1948), Kim Myong-son, a modern writer, famous for her literary work "Girl With Suspicion" (1896-1951) and Kim Won-ju, a Buddhist nun and great novelist of modern literature (Pen name: Ilyop [or Iryop]; 1896-1971) surfaced in the early 1900s when modern-style schools began to produce educated women.

Back in the ear1y 1920s, at the dawn for modern Korean music and art, Yun Sim-dok (1897-1926) appeared, "out of nowhere"; she was the first woman soprano singer in Korea, and was also an erudite writer, composer and stage actress. Showing the nation what Western vocal music was all about, she captured the hearts of people all across the country. Her outstanding social and academic achievements, dramatic performances and attractive singing voice, fascinated audiences, giving them a unique taste of Korean music that they had never before experienced. As a result, she was loved as the most promising, attractive, and stylish female intellectual in Korea. However, unfortunately, she became a victim of social ostracism and hatred, due to an extra-marital affair with a married man.

Born in Pyongyang in 1897, Yun studied at the Pyongyang Girls' Middle & High Schools. After graduation from Kyon[g]song Women's Teaching College in Seoul in 1914, she worked as a primary school teacher in the town of Wonju. Demonstrating great intelligence and unique musical talent from early youth, Yun's ambition was really devoting herself to becoming a renowned Korean musician. She therefore entered the Music Department of ... Tokyo [Imperial] University in 1918 by passing the (Japanese) Homeland Governmental Scholarship Examination, with excellent marks. During her university days in Tokyo, she enjoyed the freedom to read an abundance of Western romantic literature and art and the company of the handsome (male) college students. She was strongly attracted to Kim Wu-jin, who was majoring in English literature and drama at Tokyo's [W]aseda University, and came from a wealthy and renowned lineage of prominent citizens in Mokpo. Despite the fact Kim was married and had a wife and children at home, in Mokpo, she was fascinated by his personality and his literary acumen. They soon fell in love with each other. After graduating from ... Tokyo University, in 1922, Yun worked as a teaching assistant there. Yun asserted the need for Korean women's self-awakening, for their liberation from men, and for their acquisition of a proper social status....

Sharing overwhelming sorrows and affection, Yun suggested to Kim that they return to Korea. They boarded a passenger ship, sailing from Shimonoseki to nearby Pusan. Watching the vast and silent sea from the deck of the ship on the voyage, she expressed profound emotion by singing "Hymn to Death," highly reflecting a keen sensitivity, while comparing her loneliness to the ship sailing on the seas. The lyrics of Yun's song appealed to Kim's inclinations to cast off the burdens of wealth, love and honor. The sentimental and emotional atmosphere captivated them and induced them to seek in death an ideal "dream world," transcending reality.

They were impelled to commit suicide, jumping from the deck of the ship into the sea, on the voyage home (it was August 1926). The lovers' suicide shocked not only Korea but also Japan. The suicide was not a romantic death but a lonely battle cry that could not free its protagonists from pessimism nor the slow pace of societal reform. It was seen as a bold challenge to conventional Confucian society and as a sign of the importance of the need for women to establish a real female identity and of the need for reforms of the social circles in Korea at that time, which of course disapproved of Yun's liberal love affair.
"Modern" Korean women at the time risked opprobrium not just for being loose women or brazen hussies, but also for rejecting Korean values in favor of Japanese ones, being therefore collaborators with the colonial regime.

For more on Taisho Japan, see Ian Buruma on Ero Guro Nansensu.

26 May 2004

Of Mice and Rats

Can you tell a mouse from a baby rat? After reading these tips, I correctly identified 12 out of 12. (And I didn't have to count the nipples!) Can you tell the relatively civilized Black Rat (Rattus rattus) of the Pacific Islands from the marauding imperialist Norwegian Rat (Rattus norvegicus), which has conquered most of Eurasia and North America? Do you know how to launder your pet rat? It's all at ratbehavior.org.

via Language Hat, who linked to the authoritative Rat-English, English-Rat Dictionary.

Elections in New Caledonia

Head Heeb has been doing a great job keeping up on the recent elections in New Caledonia and French Polynesia. In both cases, the preponderant sentiment seems to be for autonomy, but not full independence. Like Micronesia, perhaps?

On a related note, the Australian National University's Pandanus Books imprint has published The Kanak Apple Season: Selected Short Fiction of Déwé Gorodé.
Mme Déwé Gorodé, Vice-President of the Government and the leading Kanak writer of New Caledonia, visited Australia to attend and speak at the Sydney Writers Festival (19-25 May 2004)....

This collection is the first English translation of Gorodé's work, and is part of Pandanus' efforts to bring Francophone writing to the attention of Australian readers. A remarkable collection reflecting the ethnic complexities of the colonial past of New Caledonia, the author's approach to language reveals an original voice that compels attention. Drawing on the heritage of blood-lines, family, cultural tradition and colonialism, Gorodé takes her reader on a journey into the Kanak world providing fascinating insight into the culture of New Caledonia, at once both Pacific island and French colonial possession.
Head Heeb also has an interesting post entitled The Pyramids of PNG:
Economist Utpal Bhattacharya of the World Bank has argued that transition economies are particularly vulnerable to Ponzi schemes, pointing to the large-scale frauds that occurred in post-Communist Russia and Romania as well as Albania. Although Papua New Guinea is not a post-Communist country, it is also in transition from subsistence agriculture and fishing to a modern urban economy, and its people are still adapting to new economic conditions. Such circumstances have facilitated Ponzi schemes in the past, particularly where - as in Haiti in 2002 - prominent citizens and political leaders are induced to participate. Although the PNG government has begun to take measures to combat fraud, "in an environment where economic challenge is a daily reality, most expect the promise of a quick and fantastic return will continue to attract many."

25 May 2004

North Korean Archaeology of Convenience

One of the staples of international academic exchanges with North Korea is an archaeological report on the latest discoveries regarding the tomb of Tangun (also romanized as Dangun), the mythical founder of Korea, born in 2333 B.C. to a he-tiger and a she-bear. Tangun's birth year is the starting point for the Tangun Era (Tanki = Danki) calendar year sequence and the first Korean kingdom, Old Chosôn (Ko Chosun = Go Joseon). The year 2004 C.E. thus equals 4337 T.E. (On the same scale, the mythical Emperor Jimmu didn't found Japan until 1673 T.E. [= 660 B.C.E.])

Several archaeological discoveries were reported by the (North) Korean Central News Agency in 1998.
Chongam earthen wall surveyed

Pyongyang, January 30 (KCNA) -- Survey of historical relics has been deepened in Korea. Authoritative scholars and experts of archaeology, history and folklore recently made a survey of the earthen wall in Chongam-Dong, Taesong District, Pyongyang. The survey team discovered relics and a wall built in the period of King Tangun's Korea, the first ancient state of Korea which existed some 5,000 years ago. The wall has two storeys. The lower storey of the wall, built in the Tangun Korea period, is about 10 metres wide at the bottom and 2.5 metres high. The upper storey, built in the Koguryo period, was rebuilt three times. A scimetar, stone spear, broken top-shape vessels and other relics of the neolithic and bronze ages were discovered in the earth of the wall. Found in the western part inside the wall were the coundation of a building, roof tiles, etc. Dating back to the Koguryo period. A mural painting of the Koguryo period was discovered for the first time in Korea. The mural painting is characterized by use of much powdered gold. The survey of the wall helps systematize the history of Tangun Korea and Koguryo in a scientific way and clearly proves that the history and culture of the Korean nation has developed from long ago with Pyongyang as the centre. [emphasis added]

Newly-discovered wall of ancient Korea

Pyongyang, August 10 (KCNA) -- The Archaeology Institute of the Academy of Social Sciences of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has recently discovered a wall of Tangun's Korea (ancient Korea). The newly-discovered wall is the west wall in the middle of the walled city of Pyongyang= It was built on a ridge of Ansan in Pyongchon district with no buildings. The wall was a mixture of earth and stone piled up on rocky layer. It has two parts. In the lower part the wall is 11 metres in bedwidth and 1.5 metres high. In the upper part it is 8 metres in bedwidth and 2.5 metres high. The outside of the wall has a steep slope and the inside an easy one. The building of the lower part of the wall is based on a method of construction widely used in the beginning of ancient times. The method is similar to the methods of construction used in the building of the lower parts of the earthen walls in Jithap-ri and Songhyon-ri. The two earthen walls date back to Tangun's Korea. The recently-discovered wall proves that from the initial stage of state building the people of ancient Korea concentrated on the defence of the capital of the country. It is of weighty importance in the study of the walled capital of Tangun's Korea. Relics of ancient Korea were also discovered during the recent unearthing of the wall. [emphasis added]
Rather convenient, eh? And not just for North Korea. There are plenty of archchauvinists among South Korean academics to lend whatever respectability they might add. (Is it fair to assume that 'academic' does not necessarily imply 'scholar'?) Here's a report about a North-South conference in 2003.
Second Joint Scientific Symposium on Tangun and Kojoson

Pyongyang, October 3 (KCNA) -- The second joint scientific symposium on Tangun and Kojoson (ancient Korea) took place at the People's Palace of Culture on Oct. 2. Present there were Ryu Mi Yong, chairperson of the Council for the Reunification of Tangun's Nation, Kim Jong Yong, vice-president of the Academy of Social Sciences, social scientists and university teachers in Pyongyang.

Also on hand were academic figures of the south side including Honorary Chairman Kim Jong Bae and Chairman Yun Nae Hyon of the Tangun Society who came to participate in the joint national function commemorating the Foundation Day of Korea.

Presented to the symposium were achievements made by many historians in the north and the south in the studies of documents and archaeological excavation by deepening researches into Tangun and Kojoson over the past one year. Academic issues were also discussed.

Historians of the north said that the excavation of the tomb of King Tangun was a historic event which confirmed the Korean nation being a homogeneous nation rare to be seen with the same blood, language, culture and history with Tangun as its ancestor. They proved that the area of Pyongyang is the cradle of the culture of Kojoson.

Historians from the south reviewed achievements made by historical circles in the north and the south in the studies of Tangun and Kojoson and said it has been proved through Koguryo mural tombs that the Korean nation is descendants of Tangun.

The speakers stressed the need for the historians of the two parts of the country to deepen joint academic studies of Tangun and Kojoson that had a great influence on the development of national history.

A joint press release of the symposium was adopted.

According to it, the historians of the north and the south shared the same view that the Korean nation is a homogeneous nation with Tangun as its founding ancestor, a resourceful nation that went over to a civilized society in the earliest period in the East to create an excellent national culture and that Kojoson was the first ancient state of the Korean nation and a powerful and independent sovereign state that displayed its grand sight as a civilized state in the East.

They also reached consensus on the need to conduct brisk academic exchange, solidarity and cooperation to glorify the national history spanning five thousand years, preserve the fine national character and keep the commonness of the nation and turn out actively for the solidarity and unity of the intellectuals of the north, the south and abroad and for the great unity of the whole nation and national reunification in accordance with the idea of "By our nation itself". [emphasis added]

24 May 2004

Bulgarian Wrestlers versus Democrats

I regret having to dump a tub of icewater over our (or at least my) enthusiasm for the "Black Sea Mafia" in Japanese sumo, but a "differently informed" perspective on the origins of these wrestlers needs to be considered. The following passage begins the chapter titled, "Wrestlers versus Democrats," in Robert D. Kaplan's book Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus (Vintage, 2000).
Within twenty-four hours of crossing into Bulgaria by train from Romania, I had begun hearing two words over and over again: wrestlers and groupings, with an emphasis on Multigroup, the Orion Group, and the Tron Group. "They run the country," I was told, or at the least were as palpable a presence in people's lives as the elected government. In early May 1998, a few weeks after I left Bulgaria, Anna Zarkova, a local journalist who had exposed these groups in her articles for the daily Trud, was doused with sulfuric acid hurled at her face at a bus stop. Zarkova, the mother of two children, lost her left ear and the sight in one eye as a result of the attack. For this reason, I cannot name the private citizens who gave me the following information without endangering their lives.

In the Communist era, Bulgaria had a great Olympic wrestling tradition. When the regime favorites lost their subsidies, many of them went into racketeering--with the help of their friends from the security services--and amassed tremendous wealth during the power vacuum that followed the regime's collapse. A close friend, a Bulgarian woman in her mid-twenties who specializes in human-rights cases, told me:

"The wrestlers are all big and tough, with cell phones, fancy cars, Versace suits, and young girls on their arms. All their girlfriends look alike: thin, with blond hair and vacuous expressions, and adorned with gold. At a restaurant where a meal cost more than most Bulgarians make in a month, I heard one of these girls repeat over and over to her wrestler boyfriend, 'This is so cheap. I can't believe how cheap this is....' The wrestlers and their girls go to expensive nightclubs with loud music, where go-go dancers sing cheesy lyrics, like 'I love shopska [peasant's] salad.' We all know that our cars will be stolen if they are not 'insured' with one of the wrestlers' insurance companies. Another name for the wrestlers is the moutras--the 'scary faces.' We are all repulsed by their behavior, but we have to deal with them. This is a country where people have put their life savings into sugar and flour because of inflation [and where the monthly salary is $140], yet there is a criminal class with stolen Audis and Mercedes."

I saw the wrestlers frequently in Sofia. A late-model high-performance car would screech to a halt, muscular men in fashionable clothes would emerge with cell phones, wearing enough cologne to be noticeable from fifteen feet away. The boss would occasionally have two beautiful women with him, one on each arm. It was both frightening and pathetic. Their expensive homes, on the slopes of Mount Vitosha, above the haze of pollution that hovers over Sofia, were surrounded by two-story-high brick walls and punctuated with satellite dishes. Nearby sprawled a vast Gypsy settlement of muddy shacks, growling dogs milling about.

23 May 2004

Sumo Giant Upsets Giantkiller

After breaking Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu's winning streak early in sumo's Natsu Basho, the top maegashira Hokutoriki looked good to win the tournament. He was the giantkiller, knocking off the higher-ranked rikishi one after another. He "preserved his one loss" (ippai o mamotta), going into the final day at 13-1. But Asashoryu also managed to preserve his two losses, entering day 15 at 12-2.

Well, wouldn't you know it: On the final day, Hokutoriki lost to Hakuho, a Mongolian rikishi making his "major league" (Makuuchi) debut. Meanwhile Asashoryu managed to best ozeki Chiyotaikai. The giant and the giantkiller, both tied at 13-2, were forced into a playoff, in which the giant once again prevailed. Asashoryu now has three tournament victories in a row, and seven in all. Hokutoriki and Hakuho, who finished at 12-3, split the well-deserved Fighting Spirit prize.

Georgian rikishi Kokkai, who made his Makuuchi debut last tournament, finished at an impressive 10-5. Of course, I'm rooting for him to do well but, most of all, I want Asashoryu to shatter every record that Takanohana set during the 1990s.

As usual, "That's News to Me" has more details, and even boldly predicts rankings for the Nagoya Basho in July.

UPDATE: The Argus links to an article, Sumo Goes International, which reviews the rise of the Hawaiian and then Mongolian rikishi, then adds this about the up-and-coming Black Sea (rather than Black Ship) sumo recruits:
Georgia, a "martial arts kingdom" that has produced many Olympic medalists in wrestling and judo, is also proving fertile ground for sumo. Georgian wrestler Kokkai (Black Sea) was promoted to the [Makuuchi] division this spring. At the end of 2002, a sumo ring was opened in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, sparking a surge of interest in the sport. Kokkai was also trained by his father, a former wrestler, and was a European junior wrestling champion in the 130-kilogram weight class. Young men training at the Tbilisi center are inspired to become the "second Kokkai."

Following on the heels of Kokkai is the Russian-born Roho, who in November became the second European and the first Russian sekitori wrestler. Roho, who hails from the Caucasus, located to the north of Georgia, is also a proven talent who won wrestling's world junior championship at the age of 18. And Kotooshu [Harp-Europe], a 20-year-old Bulgarian who made his sumo debut in November 2002 and stands 202 centimeters tall, is also gunning for the upper ranks as the first wrestler to use his considerable height as a weapon. He, too, had competitive wrestling experience prior to coming to Japan.
BTW, the -HO (long -HOU) ending on several of the names can be translated 'roc' (the huge mythical bird): So the Russian Roho is Dew Roc, and the Mongolian Hakuho is White Roc.

22 May 2004

Buruma on the End of Postwar Illusions

Finally, here is the somber epilogue in Ian Buruma's book Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles, 2003).
In front of Shinjuku station, the favored spot in the 1960s of student demos and theatrical "happenings," I watched people toss peanuts at a crude caricature of Tanaka Kakuei, the disgraced former prime minister [and father of PM Koizumi's first foreign minister]. "Peanuts" was the term used by middlemen who collected cash from the Lockheed Corporation to be distributed among Japanese politicians, including Tanaka, in exchange for landing an aircraft deal. The main broker was Kodama Yoshio, the wartime racketeer who was in prison with Kishi Nobusuke. When news of this latest scandal broke, a young porno movie actor crashed his light plane into the Lockheed office in Tokyo as an act of protest against capitalist corruption. He wore the uniform of a kamikaze fighter. His last words were "Long live the emperor!" Thus does farce echo the tragedies of history....

In terms of brute financial power, however, Tanaka's legacy was a fantastic success. In the 1980s, Tokyo yuppies ate gold leaf. With a prime piece of Japanese real estate, you could have bought yourself a small country [Hawai‘i, for instance]....

Yet there was a sense among many Japanese of something missing in their rich and increasingly ugly country. It was not for nothing that the leaders of Aum Shinrikyo, the quasi-Buddhist cult, which tried to commit mass murder in 1995 by spreading sarin gas in the Tokyo subways, were men and women of the highest education. Many of them were scientists or trained for the technocratic bureaucracy. They were the heirs of the Ikeda deal, and in the absence of political responsibility for the here and now, they filled their heads with murderous spiritual utopianism. The group aimed for a huge conflagration, a spectacular destruction of what they saw as a meaningless society. A wonderful new world would rise from the ashes of postwar affluence....

Two years after the Gulf War, the LDP, racked by more corruption scandals and the defection of some powerful politicians, lost an election. For a short while, it looked as though the LDP System might come to an end....

It turned out to be another false dawn. The electoral changes did not go far enough to make a difference....

Yet something did change, not through political will, but through economic circumstances: The great bonanza ended in a massive stock market crash. Real estate prices tumbled, banks went under, and the Japanese bubble quickly seemed as fantastic in retrospect as tulip mania in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. Japanese triumphalists and Western alarmists were stunned into uncharacteristic silence. This did not bring down the LDP System, to be sure, but it more or less killed people's trust in it. The bureaucratic elite lost much of its prestige. From trusted and safe guarantors of stability and growth, they came to be seen as arrogant blunderers out of touch with reality. The LDP still rules, but faute de mieux, and no longer alone. It has to share its power with other parties, such as the Komeito, linked to a right-wing Buddhist organization. And for the first time since the 1950s, even the highly educated salarymen in the senior ranks of large corporations can no longer be sure of a lifetime job. You see them in libraries, coffee shops, and railway stations, men in neat blue suits reading newspapers, pretending to work, but in fact cast adrift in a society that is slowly unraveling. The economic crash has not made many Japanese destitute, not yet. Fifty years of high-speed growth created huge reserves of wealth. But the Ikeda deal is over....

I am writing in Tokyo, in the early spring of 2002. And I think of the number of times in the last few weeks when Japanese told me, in all seriousness, that they wished the black ships would come round once again, to unblock the political system. Only foreign pressure, they say, can cut the knots that tether this insular society to the old ways that no longer function. I can see what they mean, but I look forward, nonetheless, to the day when Japanese free themselves and can finally bid the black ships farewell, because they no longer need them.

21 May 2004

The Role of "Manchukuo Candidates" in the Postwar Period

Many of the principal architects of Japanese and Korean economic development after World War II got their start in Manchukuo. Among them were:
  • Japanese Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, who served as industrial czar in Manchuria

  • Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei, who served in the Morioka Cavalry in Manchuria, and his later nemesis Fukuda Takeo, who eventually toppled Tanaka from power. Tanaka's outspoken daughter Makiko served as current Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's first foreign minister.

  • Japanese Lt. Okamoto Minoru (Park Chung-hee), the father of the South Korean chaebôl (= Jp. zaibatsu)

  • North Korea's "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung, who got his start as a guerrilla leader in Manchuria

  • North Korea's "Dear Leader" Kim Chong-il, who was born in Khabarovsk after his father was chased out of Manchuria
Columbia historian Charles K. Armstrong addresses the role of Manchuria in North Korean mythology in a fascinating article entitled "Centering the Periphery: Manchurian Exile(s) and the North Korean State," in Korean Studies 19: 1-16:
Kim Il Sung and other Manchurian guerrilla veterans who came to dominate North Korean politics after 1945 were profoundly influenced by the experience of their anti-Japanese struggle in exile. This influence has shaped the ideology, historiography, and domestic and external policies of the DPRK to the present. At the same time, this exile experience has been given a mythical status in North Korean history, centered on the personality and activities of Kim Il Sung, but reflective of earlier attempts to draw Manchuria into the mainstream of Korean history. The "mythification" of Manchuria has grown steadily over time, and since the early 1970s Kim Jong Il has been closely associated with his father's Manchurian guerrilla struggle, in particular with the image of Mt. Paektu.

Buruma on Kishi Nobusuke and the 1955/LDP System

Ian Buruma's chapter entitled "1955 and All That" in his book Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles, 2003) begins thus:
On Christmas Eve 1948, a thin middle-aged man in a shabby khaki uniform and a peaked cap was released from Sugamo prison. His soft lips formed a toothy smile as he boarded an American jeep. Kishi Nobusuke had just spent three years in Sugamo jail as a class A war crimes suspect. He had been General Tojo's minister of commerce and industry when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Before that he had been the industrial czar of Manchukuo. He was in fact the nearest Japanese equivalent to Albert Speer. His wartime responsibilities ranged from munitions to slave labor. If the war had been fought by soldiers, their conquests had been administered by people like him.

Many a postwar friendship was kindled or strengthened in Sugamo. Kishi's cellmate was Sasakawa Ryoichi, the leader of a small fascist party in the 1930s and a notorious racketeer in occupied China. He expanded his fortune after the war in various more or less opaque ways, which included a huge gambling enterprise. Wartime connections and a great deal of shady money made him a formidable backroom operator in postwar conservative politics. Sasakawa was released the same day as Kishi. Less than ten years later, Kishi would be prime minister of Japan.

In 1948, however, Yoshida Shigeru was still in charge. Though both moved in the same high-flown circles, Kishi and Yoshida did not like each other. Yoshida, born in Tosa [now Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku], the son of a People's Rights Movement activist, was a genuine conservative compared to Kishi, a Choshu man [now Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Honshu], proud of his provincial samurai ancestry and a typical exponent of the more zealous Japanese Right. Kishi had more silky charm than the gruff Yoshida, who is still remembered in Japan for having called a socialist MP a "damned fool" in parliament. But from the time he entered Tokyo Imperial University to the end of his long career, Kishi's instincts were always on the opposite side of liberalism. As a young man, he admired Kita Ikki, the national socialist agitator behind the 1936 military rebellion. In the constitutional debates between Minobe and his rightist enemies, Kishi took the ultranationalist view. In Manchukuo, he was close to General Tojo and the Kwantung army. In 1939, he was in favor of strengthening the ties with Nazi Germany. In the struggles between businessmen and the military, he took the latter side. And in Sugamo prison, he still believed Japan had fought "a just war."

Even though Kishi became a defender of democracy after the war, his politics were in some ways remarkably consistent. Before and during the war, he described himself as a national socialist: authoritarian, nationalistic, and socialist in the sense of seeing a planned economy as the right way to strengthen the nation and spread its wealth. He was never a believer in laissez-faire, or liberal Anglo-Saxon-style capitalism. In 1953, Kishi spoke out against policies of "the 'let-alone' type." What was needed, instead, was centralized industrial planning that "should be carefully worked out--like the Russian five-year plans." Just before making this statement, he had been on a trip to West Germany, where he had had a pleasant encounter with his old colleague, the former Nazi economics minister Hjalmar Schacht. Kishi's economic ideas were and would remain very close to the mainstream of Japanese thinking....

For a moment, in 1955, it looked as though the Socialist Party might have a chance. The right and left wings made peace and merged into one Japan Socialist Party (JSP). But this galvanized the Liberals and Democrats, who, after a spate of mutual calumny and backstabbing, formed the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The architect of the merger was Kishi, and big business was the force that drove it.... This new alignment of parties became known as the "1955 System." ...

The LDP ... quickly made the 1955 System into the LDP System. With the help of big business, Washington, senior bureaucrats, and an electoral system that favored the conservative rural areas, the LDP built up a formidable political machine. It was founded on money: money from construction companies, crime syndicates, industrial corporations, CIA slush funds, and trading companies, sluiced through a network of pork barrels, managed by party factions whose members could expect tenure in the Diet as long as the money kept flowing to their constituents. The factions were formed around powerful bosses, who were rotated as party leaders and prime ministers, so that everyone had a chance to feed at the trough. To operate smoothly, the LDP System relied on fixers behind the scenes, which is where old racketeers such as Sasakawa Ryoichi and Kodama Yoshio came in. Every new LDP prime minister vowed to abolish the factions. None of them did. The socialists did not get another chance to govern for forty years, and even then they did not last long.

20 May 2004

India, Religiously Profligate Secular State

Josh Chafetz on OxBlog comments on the aftermath of India's recent elections:
KINDA COOL: India is over 80% Hindu. Last week, they kicked a Hindu nationalist party out of power. A plurality was won by the party led by an Italian-born Catholic. She then stepped aside in favor of a Sikh (who happens to be largely responsible for instigating the economic reforms that have made the Indian economy take off the last few years). The new Prime Minister was officially appointed by India's President, who is Muslim.

The New Guinea Schoolboy and the Japanese Officer

The following story was told to me in 1976 by a man from Morobe Province, New Guinea who was a noted traveler and raconteur whose nickname was "Samarai," because he had once spent time there. (My late West Virginia uncle had also spent time as an Army cook on nearby Goodenough Island after spending time in Australia. He had a lot of respect for the Aussies, and he'd been in fistfights with more than a few of them.)

In this first, rough translation, I've tried to capture the storyteller's idiom without presuming too much specialized knowledge on the part of my readers. We can be sure the story has "improved" over countless retellings, but it nevertheless conveys a third-party perspective on the Pacific War that is too rarely heard. For more local reactions to the Pacific War, consult the Australian-Japan Research Project for Australia and PNG, and the book Typhoon of War for Micronesia.
While were were in school [around March 1942], the Japanese came and took over Lae, took over the Bukaua coast [the south coast of the Huon Peninsula], all the way to Finschhafen. But we stayed there at school for another year. Then, okay, the Australians and Americans seemed to be planning to come back. Their number one patrol officer, Taylor, sent a letter saying, "Natives, don't stay in your villages any more. Build huts in your hillside gardens and stay there. A big fight is coming."

So here's what we did. We people at Hopoi abandoned Hopoi. We took our school, our desks, and everything and set them up in the forest. We stayed at a place called "Apo." We kept going to school and, okay, the Australians came from over on the Moresby side, they came all the way to Wau. And they came down that little trail and they and the Japanese fought each other over at Mubo and Komiatam [above Salamaua].

And they sent word to us Kembula [Paiawa], Numbami [Siboma], and Ya [Kela] villagers to go carry their cargo to Komiatam. And they did that and the fighting got harder. The Australian forces got bigger. And some Numbami went and carried cargo over at Salamaua. They went at night. They went there and the Australians came down and fired on the Japanese so the Numbami ran into the forest.

They ran into the forest and there was one guy named G. "G, where are you? We're leaving!"

So, okay, they went and slept overnight and the next morning arrived at Buansing. And a Japanese bigman there named Nokomura [probably Nakamura], he heard the story so he came down and talked to me. He talked to me and I said, "Oh, that was my cousin, my real [cross-]cousin."

So the Japanese guy said, "Really? Your cousin? Oh, your cousin has died. The Australians shot him dead." And he spoke Japanese, and he said, "One man, bumbumbumbumbumbu, boi i dai."

I said, "Oh, you're talking bad talk."

Then he said, "Tomorrow, you go to school until 12 o'clock, then come to me." So I went to school until 12 o'clock and I went to him.

He gave me, dakine, a rifle, a gun. And he gave me, dakine, ten cartridges, ten rounds. Then he said, "I'd like for you to take this and go shoot a few birds and bring them back for me to eat."

So, okay, I took it and I went. And he wrote out my pass. And there were bigmen with long swords the Japanese called "kempesi" [probably kempeitai, the dreaded military police]. One man, his name was Masuda [possibly Matsuda]. This man had gone to school over in Germany. And he really knew German well.

So I came by and he saw me, "You, where are you going with that gun?"

So I said, "Oh, a bigman gave it to me to shoot birds for him to eat."

"Let me see your papers."

So I showed him my papers and he said, "Okay, go."

So I went and found a friend of mine. His name was Tudi. I said, "Hey, Tudi. A bigman gave me a gun and I haven't shot a bird yet. Could we both go and you shoot?"


So we both went and stopped at an onzali tree and two hornbills were there. So he went and planted his knee and shot one and it fell down. So I was really happy and ran and got it. We kept going until he shot a cockatoo.

So after I thanked him, I said, "Give me the gun and I'll see if I can shoot."

So he gave it to me and we kept going until we saw some wala birds, and I said, "I'll try to shoot. Shall I shoot or not?"

So, okay, I fired and I shot a wala bird to add to the others. So I said, "Okay, we have enough, so I'll take it and go."

So I tied the wings together and hung them over the gun and carried them back over to Buansing. I went and all the Japanese bigmen were sitting in a, dakine, committee. They were talking about the coming battles. They were sitting there talking and their bigman said, "Look, here comes my man," and the guards saluted him. And I was invited in.

So I entered the building and the guard at the door said, "Ha!" When he said that I replied, "Ha!" And I bowed three times and he bowed three times.

After we finished, okay, I went up to the second guard and he went, "Ha!" And I said "Ha!" And I bowed three times and he bowed three times. Okay, then I walked on.

So then I went up to the man who stood at the steps up to the bigman. When he said, "Ha!" then I said, "Ha!" and we had both bowed the third time, I went up the steps.

I went up the ladder and the people who were sitting in the meeting, they stood up and went "Ha!" to me and I said "Ha!", then I went up and they gave me a chair. I sat down.

And the bigman glanced at his cook. And, okay, he took smokes and opened a pack and passed them around until they were gone. Okay, then he struck his lighter and gave everyone a light, then we all sat down. We sat and sat, maybe a half-hour. Then he told his people, "Okay, the talk is over."

So they all split up and went out leaving just him and me still sitting. We stayed sitting until he said, "I've already given you a blanket and a mosquito net. Here's a knife. Here's your lavalava. Over there are your bags of rice and dried bonito, two tins of meat, a tin of fish."

I said, "Oh, you've given me so much. How will I carry it?"

He said, "Oh, it's all right. Take it away."

So I asked him, "You've given away so much. What does it mean?"

"Oh, there's a reason. I guess I'll tell you. After you leave, a ship will come tonight, a submarine will come and I'll board it and go to Rabaul."

I said, "Why are you going to do that?"

"Nothing. All us bigmen are going up to Rabaul because the bigmen and a whole lot of soldiers are at Rabaul. And these people, their job is to stay behind, and fight the Australians and Americans when they come, and destroy them, destroy them here. And us bigmen will be in Rabaul."

"Oh, all right."

Then he told me, he said, "You go get a good night's sleep so that when you see the crack of dawn you'll get up quickly."

So I listened to him and left.
For a very well-researched Japanese account of the defense of Lae-Salamaua, see here.

19 May 2004

Townsville's Native Labor Co. (Chinese)

If you're like me, you've lost a bit of sleep wondering what happened to the many foreign laborers on Nauru and Ocean Island (Banaba) during the Pacific War. Well, the first volume of The Bayonet of Australia has ended those worries for me.
The original name of the "Native Labor Company (Chinese)", Base Two, was "Chinese Civilian Labor Company", Base Two. The group of Chinese who are working in this organization were evacuated from Nauru and Ocean Islands in the Central Pacific during February 1942. They had been firstly employed by the Australian Government for the Mine Department for a period of over eighteen months. During November 1943, they signed themselves over for employment with the U.S. Army through the Chinese Consul. They came to Townsville, Queensland from Hatches Creek, Wauchope and Alice Spring by army trucks as far as Mt Isa and after putting up a night there embarked by train for Townsville. The trip took about four days. After arriving in this town, they were camped at Armstrong Paddock (U.S. Army Camp).

Among the Chinese Company there are a good many skilled carpenters, fitters, turners, motor mechanics, plumbers, electricians, blacksmiths, moulders, interpreters, clerks, cooks and labourers. The initial company consisted of 515 Chinese under the command of Captain Ferne M. Schmalle, who was assisted by eight enlisted men. The Chinese prefer the American treatment to any other in the world. They are being well fed, well clothed, well quartered and well paid, in fact they are better treated than the soldiers. In addition they enjoy the privileges of free hospitalisation, free transport to and from work and free movie shows.
Hmm. Was The Bayonet of Australia edited by Americans? Although no self-respecting Yank would write "firstly employed" I can't believe any self-respecting Ocker would write, "the Chinese prefer American treatment to any other in the world." (Maybe hoping they wouldn't stay after the war was over?) Judging from the inconsistent spellings, I'd guess the 1942 Bayonet must have been written by a bilateral committee.


Don't you find it amazing how many important people have turned up at one time or another in Papua New Guinea? Me, too. (Okay, maybe just Errol Flynn, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and one or two others.) One such VIP was LBJ, who accompanied a bombing run over Salamaua on 8-9 June 1942:
Nine days after the raid, Lyndon Johnson was awarded an Army Silver Star medal, the nation's 3rd highest medal for valour, by General MacArthur's chief of Staff, Major-General R.K. Sutherland for his participation in the above bombing raid. He often wore this medal during his term as President of the United States. He refused to discuss the details of how we won the medal. His citation read:
For gallantry in action in the vicinity of Port Moresby and Salamaua, New Guinea on June 9, 1942. While on a mission of obtaining information in the Southwest Pacific area, Lieutenant Commander Johnson, in order to obtain personal knowledge of combat conditions, volunteered as an observer on a hazardous aerial combat mission over hostile positions in New Guinea. As our planes neared the target area they were intercepted by eight hostile fighters. When, at this time, the plane in which Lieutenant Commander Johnson was an observer, developed mechanical trouble and was forced to turn back alone, presenting a favorable target to the enemy fighters, he evidenced marked coolness in spite of the hazards involved. His gallant action enabled him to obtain and return with valuable information.
After President Roosevelt ordered all members of Congress in the Armed Forces to return to their legislative duties, Johnson was released from active duty under honorable conditions on 16 June 1942. In 1949 he was promoted to Commander in the Naval Reserves to date from 1 June 1948. During his time in service, Johnson was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. After he became President following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Johnson's resignation from the United States Naval Reserve was accepted by the Secretary of the Navy effective 18 January 1964.
Of course, Johnson also spent time in Townsville, Queensland, Australia, but I've never been there, so that hardly counts.

Here's more on the controversy surrounding LBJ's silver star in PNG. Opinion Journal's Best of the Web reports:
It turns out Lyndon B. Johnson's silver star, which we noted in an item yesterday, is a matter of some controversy. CNN reported in 2001 that its own "review of the historical record raises new questions about the circumstances of its award by Gen. Douglas McArthur nearly 60 years ago."

Historian Robert Dallek--who contributed the chapter on LBJ in our forthcoming book, "Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House" (order it from the OpinionJournal bookstore)--tells CNN he concluded that "there was an agreement, a deal made between LBJ and Gen. MacArthur. And the deal was Johnson would get this medal, which somebody later said was the least deserved and most talked about medal in American military history. And MacArthur, in return, had a pledge from Johnson that he would lobby FDR to provide greater resources for the southwest Pacific theater."
Of course, there also seems to be some controversy about John Kerry's medals in Vietnam.

18 May 2004

Buruma on Japan's New Deal(ers)

A final excerpt from Ian Buruma's chapter on the U.S. Occupation period in his book Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles, 2003), highlights two unintended consequences of occupation policy:
State intervention in the economy was one area where New Dealers, Japanese bureaucrats, and the Marxists saw eye to eye. In 1947 and 1948, Japan had its first socialist prime minister. One of the most sweeping reforms, encouraged by the Americans but planned and carried out by Japanese bureaucrats, was the redistribution of land from big landowners to their tenants. It was at once a progressive measure, applauded by the Left, and a way to avert the kind of rural unrest that was helping the communists in China. Poor tenant farmers, brutalized by their wretched lives, had been the harshest foot soldiers of Japan's holy war. Now a new class of rural smallholders was born, with the unintended consequence of helping the conservatives remain in office until this day.

Another thing that cannot have been intended was that SCAP reforms boosted Japanese bureaucrats at the expense of elected politicians. The newly created Ministry on International Trade and Industry (MITI) was put in charge of central economic planning. New Dealers were also convinced that private big business was largely to blame for Japanese imperialism. The solution, as they saw it, was to take these businesses out of the hands of the families that owned them. This task, too, was left up to the bureaucrats, the same bureaucrats, in fact, who had integrated the zaibatsu into the war economy, often against the private owners' wishes. Unwittingly, American left-wingers, because of their instinctive hostility to big business, were handing over more powers to the very institutions that helped to drive Japan toward war. As a result, politicians were reduced to being brokers between corporate and bureaucratic interests.

Buruma on the Kiss of Democracy

Here's another selection from Ian Buruma's chapter on the Occupation--"Tokyo Boogie-Woogie"--in his book Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles, 2003).
Demokurashii was to be instilled in the Japanese people as though none of them had heard of the concept before. This involved, among other things, the "three S's": sex, screen, and sport. Baseball was encouraged as an intrinsically democratic game. American tutors were concerned about the feudalistic relations between Japanese men and women, who never held hands, let alone kissed in public. Kissing scenes in prewar Hollywood movies had been censored in Japan. So the occupation authorities decreed that henceforth there should be kissing in Japanese films. The first movie to take the plunge was entitled 20-Year-Old Youth and created a sensation. One zealous occupation officer had the smart idea that square dancing would be an ideal way to liberate Japanese from feudalism and introduced this novelty to some rural folks.

There was a great deal of idealism, as well as naïveté, in the American attempt to bring democracy to Japan. As always, idealism breeds hypocrisy. For even as the Japanese were lectured on their right to free speech, criticism of occupation policies was banned. Satirical cartoons of SCAP were forbidden. And SCAP officials were so keen to present the United States and its citizens as models of virtue and probity that unfavorable views were censored. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck's novel about American poverty, was banned, as were books and films about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Much as kissing, hand-holding, and dancing were to be encouraged among the Japanese, photographs of GIs fraternizing with local girls were out of bounds. However, since the right to free speech was part of the American way, mention of occupation censorship was also strictly forbidden.

The lessons of American culture were most effective when they were imparted on an unofficial and thus voluntary basis. After almost ten years of cultural deprivation and military propaganda, most Japanese were hungry for anything foreign and upbeat. During the war, "films about personal happiness" had been expressly forbidden in Japan. So Glenn Miller and Betty Grable probably did more for Japanese liberation than any number of high-minded lectures on demokurashii. Not since the late 1920s and early 1930s had there been such a taste for ero guro nansensu, the erotic, the grotesque, and the absurd: Strip shows were popular, as were pinup magazines with such exotic titles as L'Amour, Liebe, Nightclub, and Neo-Riberal (sic). Millions of people were hungry and homeless. Orphans were sleeping in the railway stations. But the big hit of 1948 was entitled "Tokyo Boogie-Woogie."

17 May 2004

Adachi Hatazo: War Hero or War Criminal?

Chapter 7 of Edward J. Drea's book, In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army (U. Nebraska Press, 1998), is a biography entitled "Adachi Hatazo: A Soldier of His Emperor" (pp. 91-109). In his preface Drea describes Adachi thus:
A fascinating character, Adachi had long perplexed me. As commander of Eighteenth Army on New Guinea, he lost at least 110,000 of the 130,000 soldiers and sailors under his command. Yet today's Ground Self Defense Forces regard Adachi with awe and reverence.
The chapter begins with a question.
Why talk about a general who is relatively obscure in Japan and virtually unknown elsewhere? ... Perhaps by discussing a general officer who was neither a genius, such as Napoleon or MacArthur, nor a fool, such as McClellan or Mutaguchi[*], we gain a keener sense of what it meant to be an officer, a commander, and a leader in a major army. Moreover a preeminent Japanese military historian [Hata Ikuhiko] regards Adachi as one of only three general officers commanding troops who upheld Japan's military tradition by not disgracing the uniform.... (The others were Lieutenant General Kuribayashi Tadamichi, defender of Iwo Jima, and Lieutenant General Ushijima Mitsuru, defender of Okinawa.)
(*Lt. Gen. Mutaguchi Renya, in command of the Fifteenth Army in Burma, launched an overland attack in 1944 on Imphal, on the Indian frontier. Lacking air cover, he chose the most rugged route through the Burmese jungle, but took along 20,000 head of cattle to feed his 85,000 troops, emulating Genghis Khan, whom he admired. Mutaguchi lost 60,000 men and 20,000 head of cattle, most of the latter before they could feed his men.)

Born into a large family of samurai stock, but unable to afford middle school (as required for a naval career), Adachi instead tested into the army's fiercely competitive Tokyo Cadet Academy, which aimed to produce graduates who were both tough officers and refined gentlemen. Adachi "became a skilled writer of short verse (tanka) and indeed would spend some of his darkest moments in the New Guinea jungles writing poetry" (p. 92). He then entered the Military Academy, where the subject matter was all military and the discipline was harsh, especially since many of the faculty were veterans of the recent, extraordinarily brutal Russo-Japanese War.

As one of the top graduates, he was posted to the First Guards Regiment, Imperial Guards Division, in Tokyo, and then went on to the Army War College, a sure sign he was destined for high rank. "Tokyo in the 1930s was a hotbed of Army factionalism" (p. 96), but Adachi steered clear of domestic politics, and "unlike many Japanese officers at that time, was monogamous.... He was deeply devoted to his wife and family despite the enforced separations that were a soldier's lot" (pp. 96-97).

Also unusual for officers in his day, Adachi was devoted to the welfare of his troops. "Adachi led by example and understood his officers and men at an emotional level" (p. 95). After being posted to the Kwantung Army headquarters in Manchuria as the railway control officer, he "ordered all heating in the headquarters' building turned off" whenever troops had to be transported in unheated trains (p. 97). He was famous for drinking large quantities of sake with his subordinates, creating an atmosphere where they could speak frankly and he could correct their errors without embarrassing them unduly.
Then war erupted with China in July 1937, and Adachi discovered his calling--he was a combat commander who led from the front, always appearing where the bullets were thickest. In the street-fighting meat grinder of Shanghai where head-on assaults into fortified positions became the accepted tactics, this was no small feat. [p. 98]
He was severely wounded in a mortar barrage that September, but was back in command of his regiment in December. His right leg was permanently weakened and bent, but he refused to use a cane. In recognition of his courage and leadership, he was promoted to major general in 1938, then lieutenant general in 1940, assigned to north China, where he conducted a series of bloody but successful pacification campaigns.

In 6 November 1942, on the same day that he heard of his wife's death after a long illness, he received orders for New Guinea.
In January 1943 Adachi flew from Rabaul to Lae, Northeast New Guinea, a major Japanese stronghold, air base, and port, where he met the survivors of Buna. For the first time in his career he saw Japanese soldiers in defeat, uniforms in tatters, some propping themselves upright on crudely fashioned bamboo crutches, others being carried by exhausted comrades. Shocked by the sight, Adachi discarded his inspection schedule and instead talked to each man, encouraging and praising them for their efforts and telling them they looked like soldiers....

Tokyo ordered Adachi to buy time for the Army to consolidate an in-depth defense in western New Guinea and the Philippines.... As the pace of the Allied offensive intensified, Adachi confronted a classic dilemma. If he garrisoned every possible landing site with small numbers of troops, he risked them being overwhelmed piecemeal. If he concentrated his forces, he risked them being bypassed.

So in June 1943, Adachi decided to fight the main battle at Salamaua, because loss of that base would render Lae untenable. His decision played into the Allied plan to fix the Japanese at Salamaua while executing an air-sea envelopement at Lae.... Yet what alternatives did Adachi have open to him? [pp. 103-104]
By 22 April 1944, MacArthur had circled around the north coast of New Guinea and taken the Eighteenth Army's largest rear area bases at Hollandia and Aitape. Adachi was cut off in eastern New Guinea, but "managed to move his 60,000 troops overland through terrible jungle and swamp terrain" (p. 107) and mount a surprise counterattack on Aitape on 10 July 1944.
His defeat at Aitape cost 10,000 Japanese lives. Now Adachi had to hold together a broken, isolated force, thousands of miles from home, and without any hope of relief. His impartiality and common sense became the glue of the defeated army. So too did his October 1944 Emergency Punishment Order that gave his officers the power of summary field execution....

Again Adachi led by example. He shared the hardships and short rations, losing nearly 80 pounds and all his teeth. Disdaining a painful hernia, he insisted on making daily visits to his front-line, no matter how far distant from headquarters. [pp. 107-108]
By August 1945, he could muster only 10,000 men, illustrating the then current saying that "Heaven is Java; hell is Burma; but no one returns alive from New Guinea" (p. 108). "Preparations for a final suicide attack were underway when Japan surrendered" (p. 108).

After the war, Adachi was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes, including the summary executions he had authorized, although he was not personally involved in any such executions himself. After also testifying at the defense of every one of his indicted subordinates, "in the early morning hours of 10 September 1947 ... Adachi used a paring knife to commit suicide" (pp. 108-109).

16 May 2004

Korea's Occupier-in-Chief, Gen. Hodge (Podge)

Compare the general in charge of U.S. occupation policy in Japan with his hapless counterpart in Korea.
Lt. Gen. John Reed Hodge was one of the most important people in recent Korean history. He served as the commander of the U.S. military occupation of southern Korea from September 1945 to August 1948, although he was far from being a prominent U.S. Army officer during World War II. His personal and professional background had a direct and negative impact on his implementation of instructions and his dealings with the Korean people and their political leaders. This article provides evidence that President Harry S. Truman's decision to appoint Hodge as occupation commander was a serious mistake. His narrow experience and lesser command responsibilities caused him to make decisions that greatly increased political polarization in the divided country, creating the circumstances that would result in the outbreak of the Korean War.
SOURCE: James I. Matray, "Hodge Podge: American Occupation Policy in Korea, 1945-1948," Korean Studies 19: 17-38

More on KimSoft and in Army Magazine. To quote the latter:
Japanese forces in Korea formally surrendered to Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge, the American corps commander, on September 9, 1945. Hodge was then appointed the commander of U.S. Armed Forces in Korea and tasked with the restoration of Korean independence.

In hopes of maintaining civil order, Gen. Hodge kept Japanese officials in charge of Korean civilian affairs. It was a mistake, and his statements and actions led to rioting in the south. To restore peace, Syngman Rhee, the exiled leader of Korea's independence movement, was asked to return to his home country. Rhee, a nationalist since his days as a student in Seoul, had been jailed and tortured for his views. He escaped from Japanese-occupied Korea to Shanghai and set up the Korean Provisional Government. He was eventually elected president of the Republic of Korea.

15 May 2004

Buruma on Japan's Occupier-in-Chief

Ian Buruma's chapter on the U.S. Occupation period in his book Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles, 2003), begins thus:
General Douglas MacArthur arrived at Atsugi naval airdrome, near Yokohama, on August 30, 1945. Having emerged from his aircraft, the supreme commander for the Allied powers (SCAP) paused at the top of the steps, stuck one hand in his hip pocket, tightened his jaws around his corncob pipe, and surveyed the conquered land through his aviator sunglasses. This trademark pose, casually imperious, had been well rehearsed. It was repeated several times from different angles, so all the press photographers could get a decent shot.

We cannot know exactly what went through SCAP's mind at that moment, but reports of his monologues on the long flight from Australia suggest that he felt like a man with a mission. MacArthur was no expert on Japan; in fact, he knew very little about the place. But guided, in his own account, by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ, he would deliver this benighted Oriental nation from slavery and feudalism and transform its people into pacific democrats. It was to be the most radical overhaul since the Meiji Restoration, another new dawn to the West. But this time America, and not Germany, would be the model, the only model. Officially, the occupation of Japan was to be shared by the other Allied powers, including the Soviet Union. In fact, it was an American show from the start.

SCAP's mission began almost one hundred years after Commodore Perry arrived with his black ships. Then, too, "the universal Yankee nation" had come (in Perry's mind, at any rate) to bring light to Japanese darkness. The guns on the deck of his flagship, Powhatan, made sure the Japanese got the message. This earlier mission was not forgotten at the hour of Japan's official surrender. Perry's flag, carefully preserved at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, was flown to Japan for the ceremony on the battleship Missouri. After the old flag was hoisted and MacArthur spoke grandiloquently, like the ham actor he was, of freedom, tolerance, and justice, fifteen hundred U.S. Navy fighter planes and four hundred B-29 bombers roared overhead in tight formation.

The Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were disbanded. Leftover stockpiles and materiel were either destroyed or disappeared into the black markets, thus setting up the careers of well-connected Japanese gangsters, political fixers, and right-wing politicians. Destroying Japan's military was only the beginning, however. Political institutions had to be reformed and the zaibatsu tackled. The Japanese bureaucracy, on the other hand, was left largely in place to carry out SCAP's reforms for him. Unlike Germany, Japan was to be administered by the Japanese themselves, with SCAP and his staff as puppet masters, frequently moving in the dark. There was a general election in 1946, and occupied Japan continued to be run officially by Japanese governments under the autocratic gaze of SCAP. Thus, an important link between prewar, wartime, and postwar Japan was preserved. The effect was not all to the good.

Buruma on the Kamikaze Spirit

Here's a selection from Ian Buruma's chapter on Japan's "War Against the West" in his book Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles, 2003).
Suicide was the sacrifice demanded of all Japanese soldiers who were captured by the enemy. But it was demanded of civilians, too. By 1944, Japanese leaders knew that the war could not be won by conventional means, but diehards maintained that even if all Japanese had to die, the kokutai ['national polity'] would survive forever. There could be no surrender. Thus an ancient privilege of the samurai caste became a national duty. When the Americans landed on Saipan, women and children were made to jump off the cliffs. Up to 170,000 civilians died in Okinawa. Thousands were driven into American machine-gun fire as cover for Japanese troops. Others were forced to make room in hiding places for soldiers by killing themselves and their families with razors, knives, or, if necessary, their bare hands. Hundreds of thousands more perished in the man-made firestorms of Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka, and still Japan's Götterdämmerung was being blamed by the ruling elite on the insufficient spirit and loyalty of ordinary citizens.

Schoolchildren were ordered to write letters to Japanese soldiers at the front, telling them to "die gloriously." In 1945, military suicide tactics actually became national policy. The Divine Wind Special Attack Units were the brainchild of Admiral Onishi Takijiro, who committed suicide himself after Japan's defeat. Young men, often from the best universities, were pressured into volunteering for this last show of Japanese spirit. Submarines and fighter planes were constructed especially for the suicide missions. In fact, even though only one in three suicide fighters actually hit an American target, the tactic was damaging to U.S. ships and cost many lives. But even Admiral Onishi cannot have seriously thought it would win the war. He may have hoped that such tactics would, in the words of one elder statesman, develop a more "advantageous war situation," forcing the enemy to come to terms. The desired effect was certainly deadly, but it was also theatrical: A peculiar idea of Japaneseness, whose seeds were sown in the late Edo period but which became a national pathology in the late 1930s, had turned from outward aggression to pure self-destruction.